When a woman is pregnant, chances are that she is going to receive countless tidbits of information about what might be good or bad for her and her child. However, despite the fact that many people mean well, sometimes they provide inaccurate advice. One of the most common misunderstandings is that pregnant women should avoid seat belts. However, research suggests that this is in fact not the case.
Not an isolated incident
According to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 6,400 Americans are injured in car crashes every day. Yet it is possible to reduce the risk of a fatal accident or serious injury by as much as 50 percent when the driver or passenger wears a seatbelt.
An increased risk for women
A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that pregnant women who do not wear a seatbelt may be at even more risk. Despite the fact that most injuries that require hospitalization during pregnancy are attributed to car crashes, the relationship between specific fetal outcomes and car accidents remained relatively untested.
What the study showed
The study observed data for 878,546 women between the ages of 16 and 46 who gave birth to a single child in the state of North Carolina between 2001 and 2008. By using crash reports and vital records, the investigators were able to study the association between adverse pregnancy outcomes, vehicle safety features, and car crashes.
It is a given that trauma is the leading cause for fetal and maternal mortality and morbidity. Blunt abdominal trauma is especially dangerous for the pregnant woman and her fetus is. This may harm shared maternal and fetal organ systems, or might indirectly or directly harm fetal organs. Investigators focused on four pregnancy outcomes:
- Premature rupture of the membranes (which can bring on labor)
- Placental abruption (meaning the placental lining separates from the uterus)
- Preterm birth
The researchers found that compared to women not involved in a car accident, pregnant drivers had higher risk rates of premature rupture of the membranes, placental abruption, and preterm birth even after a single accident.
Expanding the study
Unlike the previous studies, the new study focused on women involved in multiple motor vehicle collisions while pregnant. After a later, secondary crash, investigators discovered that pregnant women had highly elevated rates of stillbirth, premature rupture of the membranes, placental abruption, and preterm birth. As the number of crashes increased, the rates of these unfavorable outcomes increased as well.
Why it is important for pregnant women to wear a seatbelt
A lack of airbags or not wearing a seatbelt was associated with even more highly elevated rates of the adverse outcomes. Especially the rate of stillbirths increased when a woman did not wear her seatbelt. The researchers found that there was a 300 percent increase of stillbirths if the woman did not wear her seatbelt.
Researchers hope that this study will retire the notion that pregnant women should avoid seatbelts. Of course, there are certain safety precautions that a pregnant woman must take when wearing a seatbelt (such as wearing the lap-belt portion of a three-point restraint lower across the pelvis). However, as the study suggests, seatbelts will not only protect the woman, but also protect her baby.